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Fireworks sales boom as large-scale displays shutter; fire departments push safety

Posted at 6:13 PM, Jul 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 20:13:06-04

MIDVALE, Utah — Starting July 2, Utah residents can legally launch fireworks – but as personal firework sales and temperatures soar, fire departments are pushing safety.

At Mad Matt’s Firework stands, patrons find aisle after aisle, bursting with novelty items, fountains and aerial fireworks.

“We’re seeing much bigger sales than ever before,” said the owner, Matt Shadle, as he sat behind the cash register at their main firework tent in Sandy.

This year, business has been good for Shadle. As large-scale firework displays shutter in response to COVID, people have been flocking to his stands.

“I think the only year that may have been better was 2011, when [the state] first [reintroduced] the aerials back to Utah,” he continued.

As customers check out, they’re met by signs behind the register reminding patrons to read all firework precautions and instructions to use them safely.

“We don’t want any fires, fires are the worst thing for our business,” Shadle said.

But where there’s smoke, there can always be fire.

“We’ve had a ton of red flag days already,” said Matthew McFarland, a spokesperson for Unified Fire Authority. “Almost every day for the last month we’ve had a fire somewhere in Salt Lake County or Northern Utah County.”

A recent fire in Lehi, caused by illegal fireworks, led to the evacuation of 40-homes and scorched more than 450-acres of land.

“It’s deceptive because we’ve had some rain, people get kind of complacent,” McFarland continued. “The light, fleshy fuels that we worry about, they reset really quickly and it doesn’t take many hours of 80 or 90-degree temperatures for them to be volatile again.”

Now, as high temps continue to dry out landscapes and create fuels, fire departments across the Salt Lake Valley have expressed very real firework related concerns.

“We have a lot of dry fuel throughout Salt Lake City, especially in our urban interface areas, and we are concerned about the accidental ignition of those areas,” said Salt Lake City Fire Chief, Karl Lieb as he held a small stack of safety flyers.

Lieb and eight or nine of the firefighters in his department spent Wednesday morning passing out the bright yellow and black firework safety flyers in a number of neighborhoods, letting residents know the regulations for Salt Lake.

In Weber County, the Sheriff’s Office teamed up with the Fire District, to share some quick safety tips on a social media live stream.

And more safety tips and reminders have been posted on UFA’s Youtube channel, with a little personal flare, in a mini video series called, “Don’t be a dingus with Daryll.”

“This one didn’t take the first time, there’s a little bit of fuse left, I think we got her still,” the character, Daryll says, as he gets down to the ground next to a firework. The video then goes to a slide which reads, “Never try to re-light a firework.”

Different methods, but the messages are the same.

Stay 200-feet from any fuels, set them off on leveled ground, keep your audience at a safe distance, leave the lighting to adults and above all, use your best judgment.

“If things are windy and it’s especially dry, maybe it’s not the time to set them off,” McFarland said. “I hate to ruin a good time, but let’s not see any accidents or anybody get hurt.”

“You’re still an American, who loves freedom, without the fireworks,” he smiled.

McFarland said his first recommendation is always to leave the firework shows to the professionals. A list of expected shows can be found HERE.

Fireworks may only be set off between July 2-5 and again from July 22-25. Shooting off fireworks outside of the approved dates and times can result in a fine up to $1,000.

However, that does not mean they are legal in any given neighborhood or area.

Utahns can find a new, Interactive Firework Restrictions Map on UFA’s website.